When your daughter thinks she wants her ears pierced, your 7-18 year old wants to go out running alone, or your vulnerable youth is pressing you for his or her personal autonomy, what happens in your home? What is your response? What is their reaction to your response?
Kudos to you if your children are even asking you, as opposed to just telling you their intentions or showing you their decision, after-the-fact. If you’ve had the benefit to discuss, consult, advise and examine these interests of your children, are they/you encouraged with the exchange, as it takes place? Or, are you frustrated by having blown your cool, at the first mention of the “absurd” desire?Furthermore, are you indignant believing you never had the opportunity to come alongside your child, because these things are beyond your control?
I have experienced these emotions, among many varied exchanges, while dealing with our children’s expressed desires. I confess to having reacted poorly, as in, “how could you even contemplate such a stupid notion! Absolutely NOT, under no circumstances- my answer is NO! In fact- our discussion is ENDED!” My fears expressed accordingly- that my progeny would even think long enough to have the poor sense to ask, I and they leave each other knowing this was no conversation. Thus, I have reinforced the setting up of a cycle or culture not at all conducive to better and more constructive opportunities on another subject/day.
How do we get to the place where we are renewing daily our opportunity to speak into each others lives? How do we and they want to be spoken and listened to? I have without exaggeration dozens of opportunities, from just the last few days, as examples to share. I’ll describe just a few. But first, I have dozens of examples because I spend a delightful amount of time with my kiddos! We are devoted to spending time together. This environment has been erected over a lifetime of loving to be together. Household culture #1- devoting ourselves to each other, with time, over time, all the time. This is now a universal cornerstone for our family because we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It takes a lot of time together to build re-pore. If we are never together, we have an impossibly hard time gaining this essential family commodity of re-pore.
An adult daughter of mine, asked just this morning- “dad, what would you think of my getting my ears pierced?” This was not the first time we had talked this over… why, as an adult is she even asking me? My reply was- “of course, if this is what you want”. I had many years previously asked her to consider waiting awhile to see if she still had the desire, after the passage of time. I didn’t think it would be six plus years between asking. I had simply stated previously that “these days a girl with out pierced ears sure stands out”. My daughter will always stand out because she show’s a lot of respect to her dad, family, and others. Secondly, she governs herself well in self discipline and accountability. This would be household culture#2– governing of ones-self according to Godly principles, by knowing we are all for one and one for all! Understanding that we are responsible for how we conduct ourselves according to that good instruction and example.
If the first order of government is self government by the individual, it behooves us to, by the earliest of ages, to train with example by instruction, counsel, and consequence. Meaning, when the children are very small, after …counsel comes their decision and the consequence. Let them fall …and rise. For while young, they don’t fall as hard and far. They get up, gain insight, greater trust, and responsibility. Another of my teenage children was allowed the opportunity to remain at home, with the older siblings, when we were away for a short trip. During a hike he, against counsel of the older siblings, decided to separate himself from the group. This caused consternation, along with potential danger, for the older crew left in charge. For too long, they were left looking for him. When we arrived home we did not let this slide but had extensive conversation over the group’s predicament. Consequences for the attitude leading to this decision and for his poor choice and lack of understanding, in leaving the group, were discussed by me and a few of the others involved. To his credit, he did not want to remain ignorant to the effect of separating from the group. Life lessons like these are good opportunities for growth and incentive to change course, in the future. There’s always a risk with giving autonomy but the greater risk may be having no breadth of occasion for children to experience, grow, and make decisions, good and bad. I have noticed more good judgment through many experiences over time.
We have another principle that is bedrock to our family. As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord (Jesus Christ). Leading to household culture #3- Dad is in Charge, and mom is his number one backer (and btw- mom has a lot of responsibility and the authority to wield it). The Caveat which brings this full circle is dad answers to God, which seems to bring some humility to the whole family paradigm, in living alongside each other in peace and harmony. First and foremost Dad loves Mom- the kids see it all the time. Secondly, Mom respects Dad A LOT (more than is deserved), btw- this makes it really quite easy for me to love her, because I have great joy and confidence. Mom even respects dad when it’s hard, and says that this is made easier for her, knowing all she does is for her Lord (Jesus Christ) anyway. So the glue that holds it all together is~ …our youngest daughter just came in with an iced coffee and handed it to mommy saying “here- this is from God, I mean Yetta…” giggling. ~What we do is serve one another. The family is the perfect place for practice. Principles guide us- not our feelings. But our feelings have grown for each other over the years. We are devoted to one other out of love for Christ. We have benefited beyond explanation. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.“